Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Do you remember Lake Worth’s “Lolly the Trolley”?

More news from last night’s Lake Worth City Commission meeting: Could something like “Lolly the Trolley” be coming back? Or maybe a new and very much needed bus service to the Lake Worth Beach? Commissioner Andy Amoroso is meeting with Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner today to discuss this idea.

As they say, “stay tuned”.

Does the history of Lake Worth interest you? If you are on Facebook I highly recommend joining a group called “Palm Beaches Remembered.”

Information is posted from collections of Palm Beach County memories in the form of photos and other memorabilia. You never know what is going to appear and it’s interesting to read the recollections of others in the comments that follow.

There are many Lake Worth memories. Here is one I thought would be important to share. These are passes that were issued when the City had its own trolley system.
Passes used in the days of “Lolly the Trolley”.

The City of Lake Worth operated its own local transit operation in the form of “Lolly the Trolley”. Actually, I think it consisted of two trolleys that ran from the Beach, through the Downtown, past Lake Worth Towers, the High School, to the Tri-Rail station and the former Publix on Lake Worth Road. I believe the trolley also went north on Dixie Hwy. into West Palm Beach to the Winn-Dixie at Palm Coast Plaza. It cost about $1 to ride and was subsidized and operated by the City. I don’t think it received any money from PalmTran. It’s hard to pin down the details; it’s been a while since it ceased operation. The dates on the passes above are from 1996 and 1997.

Operations stopped sometime in the early-2000s. The excuse given was the cost was too-heavily subsidized by the City. Fare revenue made up only a very small portion of the cost to operate the trolleys. They were also said to be difficult to maintain as each was made by a different manufacturer and they didn’t share parts. The trolleys were in the shop and out of service many times which did not help the image of reliability. Regardless, they were a mainstay of Lake Worth for many years and provided a needed service.

Transit between our Beach and points further west including unincorporated County (for example, Palm Beach State College), has been identified as a recurring need: linking these destinations that are not adequately served by mass transit. Recently I recall hearing the City had grant money available to operate such a system but didn’t have the money to buy the equipment.

This talk of running a trolley service again began sometime last year or the year before when people were still excited about the Gulfstream Hotel re-opening and a new hotel expansion on the block’s western half. Demand for such a service made perfect sense. If something does begin to happen with the Gulfstream property it might be a good idea to get a trolley system up and running to the Beach and points Downtown and then on to the Tri-Rail station.

This picture emerged recently of a simpler time in the city of West Palm Beach’s history. Remember the ferry?
View of the downtown West Palm Beach waterfront with former library in background.

For many of you new to the area the picture above will look like one from a foreign land. The West Palm Beach City Library, the one built in 1962, used to sit at the east end of Clematis Street. It was a Mid-Century Moderne in some people’s eyes and an eyesore to others. I actually think the first years of the building, with the artwork suspended around it and fountains surrounding it, was quite attractive. Later years saw those features either removed or not maintained. Most people, including myself, agree the building was put in the wrong place. It blocked the view of the water from those using Clematis Street.

According to people commenting on Facebook, a ferry operated between downtown West Palm Beach and the Town of Palm Beach during the 1960s. With all the talk we heard recently during the “Point A to Point B” discussions about traffic in downtown West Palm Beach and the bridges to the barrier island, maybe resurrecting a ferry for people to cross over into Palm Beach is something whose time has come again.

Possibly instead of a traditional boat, such as the one pictured, it could be a hydrofoil or a hovercraft of some sort. Both would be faster and have a 21st century vibe. To use this method one would have to leave the car in West Palm Beach in one of the many downtown parking garages and then walk on foot to the water transport. There are already day-docks functioning along the current waterfront.

Just a few ideas from the past that could make our lives simpler to get around in the present day.

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